Border patrol police have recovered 1420 kilograms of bricked marijuana in two separate seizures in northeastern Thailand. Police estimate the total haul had a street value of approximately 30 million baht.
On Monday a man was arrested with 500 kilograms of bricked marijuana in the back of his pickup in Northeastern Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom Province. Border Patrol Police said the action was a joint operation by local government agencies in the province.
A black Nissan Navara pickup with a canopy was intercepted shortly after it left a petrol station about 1am. A search found 12 sacks in the back of the pickup containing 500 bricks of compressed marijuana, each weighing 1kg. The driver, Saravut Butngam, 28, was arrested.
Mr Saravut, said he received a telephone call from a man who promised to pay him 50,000 baht to drive the pickup from a petrol station in Nakhon Phanom’s Na Kae district to a spot in Sakon Nakhon.
At Sakon Nakhon, another driver would take over.
Border police believe the marijuana was smuggled across the Mekong River from Laos. They also believe it was destined for the Southern Thailand, from where it would be smuggled to a third country.
Banks of the Mekong River
In the second seizure border patrol police seized 920 kilogram of bricked marijuana that was smuggled across the Mekong River from Laos.
Border Patrol Police said officers were dispatched to an area near the Mekong river in Tha Uthen district of Nakhon Phanom following a report of a large amount of marijuana was being smuggled across the border.
At about 4am, a large long-tail boat was spotted arriving at the mouth of the Songkhram stream, a tributary of the Mekong. It was accompanied by a smaller boat.
As the border patrol unit was moving in a group of men on the long boat jumped into the smaller boat and fled, leaving behind 23 sacks of bricked marijuana. The 23 sacks contained 920 packs of compressed marijuana, each weighing 1kg.
Border Patrol Police said during the past few months more than 5 tonnes of marijuana and about 10 million methamphetamine pills have been seized after being smuggled across the border.
Cannabis industry in Thailand
Meanwhile, experts say Marijuana could generate up to Bt8 billion for Thailand’s pharmaceutical industry over the next five years, but farmers stand to make little from growing the herb.
Last year, Thailand removed cannabis and hemp leaves from its list of banned narcotics (seeds and buds remain banned). Individuals are still prohibited from growing marijuana for sale, though universities, community enterprises, medical professionals and traditional medicine practitioners can seek a license to grow it commercially.
“We believe marijuana has great potential as a cash crop because more patients will start using marijuana-based drugs soon,” said Ravissa Suchato, an economist at Kasetsart University’s Agricultural and Resource Economics Department.
Ravissa led a study titled “Economic Impact of Commercialised Cannabis Cultivation in Thailand”, which was funded by the Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) and covered both traditional and modern medicine.
The study found that modern medicine has used marijuana to treat patients suffering from three key conditions – cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
Two natural compounds found in plants of the cannabis genus, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are used in both traditional and modern medicine.
THC produces a sense of euphoria (a “high”), while CBD has been shown to help patients suffering from anxiety, depression and seizures.
In Thailand, cannabis-based medication is used for palliative care of cancer patients, not as a cure for disease, said Ravissa, adding that almost 1 million (996,743) patients are believed to have taken marijuana-based medicines in Thailand last year.
Source: Bangkok Post, Thai PBS